Recent Articles About Climate

Away from its sparkling coastal cities and picturesque natural wonders, California hides its massive, steaming pools of literal liquefied shit.

You can find them all across the Golden State, with particular density in the fertile Central Valley. They are the most visible—and the worst smelling—impact of the largest dairy industry in America. And they’re a problem.

Those hot, churning fecal lagoons are but one byproduct of California’s massive dairy industry, by far the biggest in the U.S. And they in turn create another, in the form of large quantities of methane gas produced as bacteria breakdown the poop—gas that is nearly 25 times more destructive to the climate than carbon dioxide (CO2). Read more

This story originally appeared in Edible Marin and Wine Country.

If you follow Sir Francis Drake Boulevard down the Point Reyes Peninsula toward the lighthouse, beyond the now-vacated Drakes Estero, you might find yourself at Historic Ranch B, also known as Double M Dairy. Here, Jarrod Mendoza raises dairy cows on land his family has ranched for generations.

Despite its sweeping views and windswept vistas, the 1,200-acre ranch isn’t large by today’s standards. The certified organic milk from the 250 cows Mendoza manages usually only fills half of the refrigerated storage tank that is kept in a low-ceilinged room beside the milking parlor. When Jarrod’s father, Joey, ran the ranch using conventional methods, he grazed 500 cows at a time, and the tank was always full. Now, Mendoza sells his organic milk to Straus Family Creamery. The move to higher-priced organic has allowed him to produce less and give each animal access to more pasture during the winter and spring when seasonal rains bring the grass onhis land to life. Read more

It is nearly impossible to calculate the real costs and benefits—including the externalized or invisible costs—of any human activity: growing soybeans, making car tires, cooking dinner for your family. When growing soy, for example, it’s easy enough to calculate the total price paid for inputs like fertilizer or pesticides and the price received for the finished crop. But accounting for the total costs and benefits—things like environmental damage from fertilizer runoff, or the social benefits of putting land to productive use—isn’t something we tend to do as a culture. Read more

Until recently, Vermont dairy farmer Jack Lazor has been an enthusiastic grain famer. The owner of Butterworks Farm, Lazor spent years growing grains—for animals and people—and then wrote a conversational and encyclopedic guide on grain growing in the Northeast The Organic Grain Grower. In person and on the page, the affable man offers advice on tools and practices for grain growing, harvest, and storage. Read more

Beekeepers in Maryland have had a devastating few years. Last year, they lost nearly 61 percent of their bees; the year before it was nearly 50 percent.

Pointing to a growing consensus in the scientific community about pesticides’ impacts on honey bees and other pollinators, beekeepers in the state have worked with environmental groups to effect local policy. Last week, the Maryland state legislature passed the Pollinator Protection Act, which would ban consumers from buying pesticides that contain “neonics” beginning in 2018. Read more

A few weeks ago, we introduced our readers to Patrick Holden, a farmer and the director of the UK-based Sustainable Food Trust. This weekend, Patrick is bringing together hundreds of scientists, advocates, business leaders, and journalists for a three-day conference in San Francisco on the True Cost of American Food. He points out that while food in the developed world is cheaper than at any other point in history, the resources required to grow and make it—and the environmental and health impacts of doing so—are costing governments and taxpayers a great deal. Read more

Patrick Holden has been talking about the “true cost” of food for years. And while he has engaged activists, scientists, and academics from all over the world in his role as director of the UK-based Sustainable Food Trust (SFT), it is by no means a theoretical discussion for him.

Holden has also been a farmer since 1973, and his family raises dairy cows as part of a small and diverse organic farm in Wales. But, like many dairy farmers around the world, he can’t afford to sell his cows’ milk. Read more